First of all, you matter—if we don’t preserve our health and self-care, we cannot sustain our unique awesomeness. That is why I am checking in with you to offer 4 simple and realistic things that can make a difference following the holidays. I’m hoping they help you through the winter and beyond.
Let’s take a moment to walk through each of these together.
While this might seem counterintuitive, it’s easy to forget how much our phones, the internet, and social media influence how we think and feel about ourselves and our surroundings. It impacts us consciously and unconsciously. You might think, “social media is how I stay connected with the world,” or “my phone is how I zone out after a long day.” As your first step in active wellness, I invite you to disrupt the script, and take a moment to unplug for 2 hours, 1 day, 2 weeks—you choose. Making this conscious choice is empowering. It allows us to reconnect to our inner thoughts and feelings. It reminds us that we are in control of each minute-by-minute decision in our lives. This is #1 on my list for you to maintain your unique and awesome self.
Boundaries are how we maintain our integrity. Yet society and our loved ones often expect us to bend or ignore them, putting others’ needs and values before our own. Boundaries are critical. No is a complete sentence. Boundaries are how we honor ourselves and our values and without them, we cannot sustain kindness or generosity towards others or ourselves. Boundaries exist in how we interact with others outwardly but also in how we treat ourselves. Ask yourself, “What boundaries do I need in place to uphold my integrity so that I can maintain kindness and make the most generous assumptions about others during uncertain situations?”1 Take a moment to decide on a boundary you want to honor.
This is not a pre-defined prescription, nor is it a one-size-fits-all concept. Self-care is doing things that replenish, nourish, and rejuvenate you so that you can maintain health and wellness. It is something that is not a given. Society does not have this focused lens for us and our lives. Self-care is something we must actively seek, plan, and provide for ourselves consistently. Break it down for yourself into physical health and mental health areas. What do you need to maintain your awesomeness within each? Let me offer some ideas on things we all need—pick some you want to incorporate as you read!
Get Sleep: Critical to how our bodies, our minds, and how we feel.
Drink Water: Adequate hydration is easy to forget in the colder months and shorter days—but it’s vital to our organs, brains, and body functioning properly. It can also be crucial to navigate anxiety and stress.
Nourish your body and soul: It is true – what you eat does shape how you feel and how your mind and body work. Invest in feeding yourself food that promotes feeling amazing.
Infuse sounds and silence: Listening to music can also trigger dopamine release. Honoring silence on a walk can help reconnect you with your heartbeat and nature sounds around you.
Exercise: Being active is more than just for your heart and physical health. Exercise helps manage stress, anxiety, and triggers. It can regulate neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline that support feeling happier, provide better energy, and reduce inflammation, to name a few.2 It doesn’t have to be joining a boot camp; a 15-30 minute brisk walk can offer health benefits equal to that of jogging or running. Mindfulness, stretching, and standing are undervalued in our virtual-heavy world. Break the cycle—plan more stand/stretch breaks in your day.
The gift of light: During winter months when days are shorter with less sunlight, if you notice your mood changing with the darkness, invest in a 10,000 lux lamp beside you as you do your daily tasks—it can mimic sunlight and improve mood.
Connect with others: Know we are inherently social creatures and plan some time to connect with others. Engaging with people to walk, talk, work out, or share a meal—whatever you choose, the connection can be restorative. However, just as important as connecting with others is connecting with ourselves. You are good enough—good enough is not one inch above failure, it’s one millimeter below perfection. Your authentic self is all you need—let go of “coulda, woulda, shouldas,” that pop up in your mind. Give yourself permission and time to check in with yourself, be it 5 minutes, 2 hours, or a vacation getaway. Stay tuned in to your rhythm and needs. Honor your emotions (anger is not all “bad”—it is a signal from your body that something is off).
Invest in yourself: Invest in your wellness, be it a massage, therapy, or going to that concert that will fill your cup and rejuvenate you. It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale—sometimes the best warm drink or delicious dessert can make the difference! Practice will turn these actions into habits.
This is not all. Investing in daily gratitude is another one of many, many other self-care suggestions. I realize this last portion is often easier said than done. Sometimes using apps or resources can be helpful and I invite you to explore free tools on the Insight Timer3 or the Calm Apps, among many others to help when things like sleep and honoring self-care seem impossible. Have a loved one do this together with you—hold each other accountable. I end each of my teaching sessions with residents and medical students by asking each one of us to check in and state what we are doing for ourselves for self-care and wellness.
This is intentionally separate from self-care. Self-kindness is how we treat and address ourselves in times of uncertainty. It impacts how we feel and sustain ourselves in the face of hardships, including within society, daily. As you unplug, intentionally cultivate self-kindness. Kindness is how we tackle situations with grace when we feel vulnerable or when we have made mistakes as humans. Self-kindness includes allowing ourselves the gift of support from others or outside resources in the face of adversity. Here’s the key—we must cultivate it daily to maintain health so that we can easily access it in tough times. What does cultivating self-kindness look like? Some ways of infusing self-kindness include putting your health and wellness first (scheduling downtime, sleep, nourishing yourself), daily affirmations, meditation, investing in therapy, calling a friend, asking others for support—whatever you need to nurture a mindset of being kinder to yourself regularly.
If you are on your phone, the internet, and/or social media, you can also use these to program self-kindness, too. Use apps and tag resources that give you daily affirmations.
We need to be kind to ourselves especially when we feel down, defeated, overwhelmed, or alone. It’s okay to pause (a 2-minute unplug and regroup). In these moments I ask you to give yourself the gift of letting others in to get the support you deserve. It takes strength to ask for support. Please also take a moment to save in your phones a contact with ‘988’, the National Suicide and Crisis Line4 as well as the Steve Fund Crisis line ‘741741’ (text “STEVE” to get support)5. Share these resources with others.
My dear reader, you are your unique amazing self. You are a badass. You deserve this investment in your awesomeness. I realize these suggestions, while simple, may be complex to make a reality in our lives. That is why I invite you to make a conscious decision to take just 2 minutes a day to pause and lean into these, that is how they will slowly become an integral part of your daily decisions, actions, and habits.
Most importantly, take a moment to unplug, and put yourself back in the driver’s seat; the rest will follow.
For more information on the resources mentioned, please consult the list below or do not hesitate to contact email@example.com
- Brenee Brown: Boundaries. Vimeo, published 06/09/2018 https://vimeo.com/274228723 Accessed 12/5/2023.
- Lin TW, Kuo YM. Exercise benefits brain function: the monoamine connection. Brain Sci. 2013 Jan 11;3(1):39-53. doi: 10.3390/brainsci3010039. PMID: 24961306; PMCID: PMC4061837.
- Insight Network Inc. v2.233.0 © Copyright 2021 (n.d.). Insight Timer -#1 Free app for sleep, anxiety, and stress. Insight Timer. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from https://insighttimer.com/Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/
- Insight Network Inc. v2.233.0 © Copyright 2021 (n.d.). 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from https://988lifeline.org/988: Suicide and Crisis line (call or text 24/7)
- Steve Fund Crisis Line & Resources: 741741 Text “STEVE” Steve Fund: https://stevefund.org/
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